Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


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How a cow describes your business model

Today I wanted to have a little bit of fun. Long-time readers probably know that I grew up on a cattle ranch, and despite my 20+ year career in products and leadership, I still love cows, horses and the rural life.

When I found this comparison of cows and businesses, I couldn’t pass up the chance to share it. So, here’s my attempt to use a bit of ‘cow-sense’ to describe eight models that will hopefully shed some light on ways to run your business.

cows-business models-2

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Leadership is a choice

On his blog The Practice of Leadership, George Ambler wrote that leadership is about blazing new trails. What caught my attention, and very quickly, was the close-up of the cow at the beginning. The premise of the post is that people, like cows, tend to follow others on the same winding paths from one point to another. Rarely do they stop and ask why they are going where they’re going. It becomes easier to stop thinking and just do what someone tells them to do. Seldom to they pick up their heads, look around and try to determine what they could change to improve their situation. Instead, like the cows, they follow the path until it gets more trodden and eventually feels like the only possible way to get from here to there.

Leaders are trail blazers; they are not afraid to go places or do things that haven’t been done. They stand fearless in the face of obstacles and find ways to get beyond them. George says: ” if you’re following the herd through the cow paths of life…you’re not leading!” Read the poem and quotes and George’s commentary to get the full picture.

The Product Management Perspective: Having been raised on a cattle ranch, I have followed many a cow trail in my days. It’s amazing how they wind along not going in the best direction to get them to their destination. At times product teams meander like cows, following the habits of their predecessors, not really knowing why. Such behavior never leads to successful products. While such a problem cannot always be solved by the product manager, he or she is in the best position to take the lead, make the tough decisions and get the team headed in the right direction. Leadership is a choice.